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Updated: December 27, 2023

Construction starts on seasonal housing units near Acadia National Park

5 people standing in line with two shovels Courtesy / Shannon Bryan, Friends of Acadia Breaking ground for seasonal housing were Friends of Acadia board member Lili Pew and CFO Jason Irwin; Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider; and Friends of Acadia President and CEO Eric Stiles and board member Margaret Jeffery.

Construction started this month on eight housing units for seasonal employees at Acadia National Park.

Friends of Acadia acquired the 4-acre property in Seal Harbor, at the northern end of Jordan Pond Road, in September from Seal Harbor Properties LLC, which is governed by members of the Rockefeller family.

Seal Harbor is a village of the town of Mount Desert, on Mount Desert Island, where the bulk of Acadia National Park is located. The property is referred to as Dane Farm.

line drawing with colors and words
Friends of Acadia bought 4 acres, locally known as Dane Farm, from the Rockefeller family.

“Acadia National Park is such an important part of Mount Desert Island for residents, businesses and visitors,” Neva Goodwin, managing partner of Seal Harbor Properties, said earlier this year. “The park suffers, like many other organizations, from a crisis in affordable housing. Seal Harbor Properties is very happy to assist in a transaction that will address a small part of the need.”

Seal Harbor was once a summer home to financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and then his son David Rockefeller Sr.,  who was chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Corp.

The nonprofit acquired the property from Seal Harbor Properties LLC for $265,000. Friends of Acadia financed the purchase through its own funds, matched one-to-one with federal Centennial Challenge funds.

Housing shortage

The housing shortage has a direct impact on Acadia’s ability to hire a seasonal workforce, from April through October, to provide a quality visitor experience, care for cultural and natural resources, make progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and advance other strategic priorities.

Friends of Acadia partnership with the National Park Service is expected to help address the park’s housing crisis.

“Dane Farm is a key piece to solving a complex puzzle,” said Friends of Acadia President and CEO Eric Stiles. “This is positive progress and we’re thrilled to be forging ahead with construction.”

Located within Acadia’s administrative boundary, the property had been used as a gravel pit for materials and equipment storage. It is served by town sewer and water, had already largely been cleared and leveled, is considered reasonably removed from immediate neighbors, and provides easy access to the park.

Friends of Acadia hired E.L. Shea Builders & Engineers, of Ellsworth, to construct a primary residence with five bedrooms and an accessory dwelling with three bedrooms. 

In July, Friends of Acadia and Acadia National Park leadership met with nearby neighbors of the property to lay out a concept for an initial phase of development, listen to input and answer questions.

Construction is expected to last 10 to 12 months. When completed, Friends of Acadia will donate the land and buildings to Acadia National Park for long-term ownership and management.

The project is part of a broader strategy to help Acadia address the housing crisis on Mount Desert Island. Last spring, Friends of Acadia bought the Kingsleigh Inn in Southwest Harbor to provide 10 bedrooms for seasonal park employees. It has also helped fund renovation of existing park housing units to add additional bedrooms.

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